Heavens

Meteorites that are among the oldest rocks ever found have provided new clues about the conditions that existed at the beginning of the solar system, solving a longstanding mystery and overturning some accepted ideas about the way planets form.

The ancient meteorites, like disk drives salvaged from an ancient computer, still contain magnetic records about the very early history of planets, according to research by MIT planetary scientist Benjamin P. Weiss.

Just a couple of days after the orbiting observatory was brought back online, Hubble aimed its prime working camera, the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), at a particularly intriguing target, a pair of gravitationally interacting galaxies called Arp 147.

The image demonstrated that the camera is working exactly as it was before going offline, thereby scoring a "perfect 10" both for performance and beauty.

Astronomers have discovered that the nearby star Epsilon Eridani has two rocky asteroid belts and an outer icy ring, making it a triple-ring system. The inner asteroid belt is a virtual twin of the belt in our solar system, while the outer asteroid belt holds 20 times more material. Moreover, the presence of these three rings of material implies that unseen planets confine and shape them.

For the second time this year, The University of Western Ontario Meteor Group has captured incredibly rare video footage of a meteor falling to Earth. The team of astronomers suspects the fireball dropped meteorites in a region north of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, that may total as much as a few hundred grams in mass.

The Physics and Astronomy Department at Western has a network of all-sky cameras in southern Ontario that scan the sky monitoring for meteors.

Some of the first data collected by the CoRoT space telescope mission, launched in December 2006, provides valuable information about the physical vibrations and surface characteristics of nearby stars that are similar to our Sun, researchers say. This novel information illustrates the great value of space-based observations, and provides astronomers with insights into the interior of our Sun, other stars, and the overall evolution of our galaxy.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A bit of serendipity has given astronomers a surprise view of a never-before-observed event in the birth of a galaxy.

Gum 29 is a huge region of hydrogen gas that has been stripped of its electrons (ionised) by the intense radiation of the hot young stars located at its centre. Astronomers call this an HII (pronounced "H-two") region, and this particularly stunning example stretches out across space for over 200 light-years. The name stems from the fact that it is the 29th entry in the catalogue published by Australian astronomer Colin Stanley Gum in 1955.

By cleverly unraveling the workings of a natural cosmic lens, astronomers have gained a rare glimpse of the violent assembly of a young galaxy in the early Universe. Their new picture suggests that the galaxy has collided with another, feeding a supermassive black hole and triggering a tremendous burst of star formation.

WASHINGTON -- About three times a second, a 10,000-year-old stellar corpse sweeps a beam of gamma-rays toward Earth. Discovered by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, the object, called a pulsar, is the first one known that only "blinks" in gamma rays.

"This is the first example of a new class of pulsars that will give us fundamental insights into how these collapsed stars work," said Stanford University's Peter Michelson, principal investigator for Fermi's Large Area Telescope in Palo Alto, Calif.

About three times a second, a 10,000-year-old stellar corpse sweeps a beam of gamma-rays toward Earth. This object, known as a pulsar, is the first one known to "blink" only in gamma rays, and was discovered by the Large Area Telescope (LAT) onboard NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope, a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and international partners.